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Why in the world would we invite a Science Fiction author to the SAP Community Day? Well, if that author is also a futurist, the resident visionary and blogger at Wired and a fixture at South by Southwest Interactive doing his Tuesday afternoon rant

Bruce Sterling is so much more than a brilliant SciFi author.  At his 2004 Siggraph keynote he  introduced  his vision about Spimes and in my oppinion SAP is already delivering on some of his vision.

Here a couple of quotes from his talk (my highlights):

Having conquered the world made of bits, you need to reform the world made of atoms.

This Treo that I’m carrying here, this is a classic Gizmo: It’s a cellphone, a web browser, an SMS platform, an MMS platform, a really bad camera, and an abysmal typewriter, plus a notepad, a sketchpad, a calendar, a diary, a clock, a music player, and an education system with its own onboard tutorial that nobody ever reads. Plus I can plug extra, even more complicated stuff into it, if I take a notion. It’s not a Machine or a Product, because it’s not a stand-alone device. It is a platform, a playground for other developers.

The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story.

Scenario: You buy a Spime with a credit card. Your account info is embedded in the transaction, including a special email address set up for your Spimes. After the purchase, a link is sent to you with customer support, relevant product data, history of ownership, geographies, manufacturing origins, ingredients, recipes for customization, and bluebook value.

The spime is able to update its data in your database (via radio-frequency ID), to inform you of required service calls, with appropriate links to service centers.

Managing that becomes a competitive advantage for spime makers. A true Spime is going to get ahead of the curve by bringing you inside the tent of the designers and developers and engineers, and the sales and marketing people.

The people who make Spimes want you to do as much of the work for them as possible. They can data-mine your uses of the spime, and use that to improve their Spime and gain market share. This would have been called “customer relations management,” in an earlier era, but in a Spime world, it’s more intimate. It’s collaborative, and better understood as something like open-source manufacturing. It’s all about excellence. Passion. Integrity. Cross-disciplinary action. And volunteerism.

A spime is a users group first, and a physical object second.

A Spime is today’s entire industrial process, made explicit.

Some of this information might be contained inside the Spime, and some of it might be conjured up on the Web by, say, a barcode or an RFID chip

I am convinced that some of our customers are already implementing his vision.

For example the European Union is mandating that the car manufacturers take back their cars after use for recycling. Very important to know what your car is made of to be able to dismantle it.

It would be great to hear BMW talk about how that mandate has influenced their production. On the other hand they may also have a story or two around how the community that they have created around the Mini is influencing their development.

I am driving a now old New Beetle myself and I am at awe that BMW understood the need to create a community around their re-introduction of the Mini. Not only that, but was able to pull it off, while VW dropped the ball with the Beetle only a couple of years earlier.

Just search for New Beetle Community and compare the results to New Mini Community 2.2 million versus 96 million pages. (It isn’t totally fair, as mini has many meanings)

Another example is Ford. They went to the Mustang fanatics Clubs showed them the new Mustang design and it wasn’t bulky enough for their taste. So they went back to the drawing board.

The more I read and think about his vision, the more I think he is right and many business processes innovations of our customers point in that direction, hopefully some will be shared during the Community Day.

This is where SAP shines in the industrial process. We forget that sometimes living the community Web 2.0 life.

imageI used to find time to go to – or even organize events and write about it on my Future Salon blog. Once I saw Bruce’s Singularity talk at the Long Now Foundation.

One of his funny observation stuck: The Singularity guys and it is mostly guys, are not really going out of their way to convince others about it.  They just reason that time is on their side  😉

He coined the term Technobesity meaning a glut of technological riches, that we are less and less able to absorb. Which may push out, may be forever the technical Singularity. Three years later and the term has not really taken off, although I really think that he is onto something. 

He sees himself as a technical journalist and when I told him about what we are doing during our Community Day he was so intrigued that he is joining us now for the whole day. Let’s make sure he is welcomed accordingly in our midst.

He will be our guest of honor and present his vision, may be newly influenced by ideas spawned by the discussions during our Community Day.  He also said that he has a little video about Spimes that he is going to show.

It will be really amazing. Sign up before it is sold out.

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7 Comments

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  1. Matthias Zeller
    Respect Mark! You pulled it off again. Just when I thought how can he ever find someone as interesting as Tim O’Reilly for the European event, you come up with Bruce Sterling. Brilliant! I am really happy that I am able to attend both Community Days.
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    1. Mark Finnern Post author
      Hi Matthias,

      It was a tough one, but a few planets aligned again. A big difference is that Bruce is exclusive Community Day. If you only have a TechEd ticket you are out of luck.

      Totally looking forward to it, Mark.

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    1. Mark Finnern Post author
      Hi Oliver,

      > Bruce Sterling alone would be reason enough to come to Community Day. The rest is just bonus;)

      Man I was hoping it is the other way round: Mark opening up the Community Day … The rest is just bonus.

      Guess I have to work on my delivery 😉

      Great that you are coming, Mark.

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  2. Ronen Fox
    Bruce Sterling is a brilliant writer and the linkage between his ideas and the industry is always interesting to read about.
    How about getting William Gibson the godfather of cyberpunk to speak next time ?
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